I end up indulging in Hallmark movies at this time of year because my mom has a veritable buffet of them on her DVR. It seems they can spin a love story out of any holiday, so I expect the Flag Day film bonanza is just around the corner. Until then, it’s Halloween romances, which haven’t yet achieved that cozy, magical touch. October Kiss reflects some of that blandness. Besides a nod to, or rip-off of, depending on how you look at it, my favorite movie ever, there is little to distinguish this from all the others that clog up Hallmark’s timetable.
October Kiss, if you insist on watching, is The Sound of Music set in America during Halloween with only two kids, no singing, and, thankfully, no Nazis. But stripped of a few details, this Hallmark movie sticks to the script. An exuberant young woman can’t figure out what she wants to do in life and is sent by her sister to care for a distant widower’s two young children. All they want is to be loved by their father and, later, their nanny. Certainly they don’t want daddy’s attractive colleague to win his heart, and when it looks like she might, well, you can figure out the rest.
Instead of playing guitar and making play clothes out of old curtains, Poppy (Ashley Williams) bakes cookies Martha Stewart would envy and designs one-of-a-kind Halloween costumes. This earns the good will of her young charges, Zoe (Hannah Cheramy) and Zach (Kiefer O’Reilly), and helps her overcome her commitment issues. She finally decides to stay on a job for more than a week, which is good news for Ryan (Sam Jaeger, Bill Pullman and Aaron Eckhart’s love child), an app designer who’s about to sell his latest project to a major company. Besides being overworked, it’s his deceased wife’s favorite holiday, and he’s not physically or emotionally up to taking care of his family and his job.
There are a few sweet moments, like when the kids play adult and give their father an evaluation. Jaeger is also a hopelessly kind as Ryan, and it’s easy to forgive him for his upended priorities. Even when he misses his kids’ party or totally overlooks their decorating effort, you kind of feel bad for him too. But like many Hallmark movies, October Kiss stays within the lines and doesn’t offer anything you haven’t seen already (because, really, we’ve all seen The Sound of Music). Everything’s got a distinct Better Homes and Gardens glow and is painted brilliant Optic White, save some Japanese extras. Poppy also never really resolves her initial problem, which was a lack of purpose. She only takes the nanny job because she doesn’t know what she’s passionate about doing in life, not because she has an existential conflict about her relationship status. In the end, we’ve figured out her purpose is her relationship.
Dir: Lynne Stopkewich
Writer: Mackenzie Austin
Cast: Ashley Williams, Sam Jaeger, Hannah Cheramy, Kiefer O’Reilly, Crystal Balint, Miranda Frigon
Time: 83 min
Country: United States